Ohno, other speedskaters back Colbert after Davis calls mock pundit a jerk

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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Apolo Anton Ohno doesn't think Stephen Colbert is a jerk.
Responding to criticism of the mock pundit by U.S. speedskating star Shani Davis, Ohno said Monday he's amused by Colbert's antics - including a contrived feud with Olympic host Canada - and is glad that he stepped on board as the primary sponsor of the American team.
That effort has raised more than US$250,000, nearly making up a shortfall that resulted when the previous sponsor went bust.
Last week, Davis, a 2006 gold medallist on the long track, called Colbert "a jerk," apparently in reference to the comedian making light of actual complaints that Canada has limited training time for foreign athletes at the Vancouver venues in hopes of gaining a home-ice advantage during the Olympics.
The host of "The Colbert Report" recently launched a letter-writing campaign urging the Canadians to quit being "ice-holes."
"I have not talked with Shani about that yet," Ohno said. "I don't know what his reasons were for saying that. I can't speak on his behalf, but it was an interesting comment."
Ohno, a two-time Olympian who has won two golds and five medals overall in short track speedskating, said he's a fan of Colbert.
"I think he's funny," Ohno said. "Our country is kind of in need of some humour right now, and it's all for a good cause."
What about Colbert's shots at Canada, which have included calling the neighbour to the north "syrup suckers?"
"It was a joke," Ohno said. "It was all in good fun. I just enjoy it."
U.S. Speedskating is certainly enjoying its relationship with Colbert, who offered his website to raise funds after Dutch bank DSB went bankrupt in October. In return, most American skaters are wearing the "Colbert Nation" logo on their suits and the comedian is getting a chance to have some fun.
In addition to the letter writing, Colbert recently brought out retired Olympic gold medallist Joey Cheek to put the Canadians near the top of his "On Notice" board.
Robert Crowley, executive director of U.S. Speedskating, said more than 8,500 individuals have gone on Colbert's website to make donations ranging from $1 to $5,000. The organization is just $50,000 from making up the $300,000 deficit caused by DSB's pullout.
"It's bringing great attention to our sport," Crowley said. "The man is brilliant. He sees the humour in all this."
Davis hasn't elaborated on his comments but he has ties to Canada from training out of Calgary in the past. Also, he's had past differences with U.S. Speedskating; though many of those issues have been resolved, he's still not an official member of the national program and doesn't wear Colbert's logo on his suit.
Neither does Ohno, but he said that's because he has his own primary sponsor, Alaska Airlines.
Katherine Reutter, the top American woman in short track, said there was some trepidation that Colbert might use the relationship to make fun of speedskaters. But she has no problem with what she's seen or heard so far.
"We all need to realize that we skate in tiny circles wearing spandex," she quipped. "That can be humorous at times."

Organizations: U.S. Speedskating, Alaska Airlines

Geographic location: Canada, U.S., Vancouver Colbert Nation Calgary

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